6 May 2014
Teenager Thriston Lawrence followed Open champions Ernie Els and Bobby Locke into the winner’s circle at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club on Sunday when he became the first South African to lift the Lytham Trophy in the 50th edition of the prestigious amateur championship.
Lawrence carded rounds of 72, 69, 72 and 68 off the blue tees at the Open Championship venue in England to edge out Dutchman Darius van Driel by one shot on a winning total of one-over-par 281.
Blairgowrie’s Scottish Boys’ champion Bradley Neil finished in third on 283, while third-round leader Hurley Long from Germany took fourth on four-over.
“I am immensely proud of this achievement, especially for coming from behind to win and for winning where Ernie won the Open Championship in 2012,” Lawrence said after claiming victory.
“I have always looked up to Ernie, and to win at the same course where he won his fourth major is something I am always going to treasure.”
Lawrence pushed himself into early contention to tie for third at the 36-hole mark and kept up the pressure in the third round, which he ended four shots off the pace of Germany’s Long.
He overcame a shaky start in the final round to turn in two-over after minimising the damage of bogeys at the third and sixth and a double-bogey at the fifth.
“I was hitting the ball very well over the first nine holes, but three bad shots cost me,” Lawrence said. “I birdied the fourth and then I birdied the long par-five seventh [589 yards]. It was my first birdie on the par-fives for the tournament and I think that was the game-changer for me.
“I birdied the next par-five, the 11th, and picked up another birdie at the 13th. Hurley made six at the 12th and we were tied for the lead.”
The 17-year-old kept his game in high gear as he rolled in two more birdies at the 16th and 17th to claim the first major amateur golf title on the United Kingdom’s annual calendar.
‘I was so happy’
“The last two birdies put me ahead of the field by at least two shots, but then we had to wait to see how the other guys would finish,” Lawrence said. “Luckily we didn’t have too long to wait, and I was so happy when I realised I had won.
“My dad, Steven, has shared all my best victories and having him on the bag here at the Lytham Trophy made this win really special for both of us.”
The South African Golf Association’s number two ranked amateur went into the event ranked 124th in the world, but the category A victory will give the teenager a significant boost in the world amateur golf rankings.
The achievement will also undoubtedly put him on the golfing radar in the UK, but the rising star is no stranger to golfing aficionados in his native country.
Lawrence quickly rose to prominence on the junior circuit and stole the headlines in March 2013 when, at the age of 16 years, two months and 26 days, he became the youngest champion of the Sanlam South African Amateur Championship title in the 106-year history of the event.
The victory at Country Club Johannesburg vaulted Lawrence into the top 10 in the Open Amateur rankings, and he protected his status with three victories and a slew of top-five finishes in 2012.
Following victory at the KwaZulu-Natal Stroke Play Championship, he became the first player since Teddy Weber in 1978 to successfully defend his Sanlam SA Amateur title when he defeated Altin van der Merwe at Hermanus Golf Club in March.
Lawrence will line up in the Irish Amateur Open Championship at Royal Dublin Golf Club this weekend alongside South African number one, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, and fifth ranked NJ Arnoldi, who both missed the cut at Royal Lytham and St Annes.